Republicans on the Rebound?

California GOP leaders are buoyed by Obama's shrinking poll numbers and the controversy over health care. But they lack strong political candidates.

California GOP leaders apparently think they have a shot at winning
a statewide election next year. Republicans are particularly excited
about the prospects of wealthy candidates Meg Whitman and Steve
Poizner, who are running for governor, and Carly Fiorina, who is
preparing a campaign for the US Senate. They’re buoyed by predictions
of large Republican gains nationwide in next year’s elections because
of President Obama’s allegedly shrinking poll numbers and the
opposition to health-care reform. But are the pundits and Republicans
right? Is California about to embrace the party of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn
Beck, and gun-toting Tea Baggers? It’s possible, but it doesn’t appear
likely.

First, Obama’s national approval ratings have rebounded since August
and are about what they were prior to last November when Democrats
swept the election. According to Pollster.com, Obama’s average favorability
rating on the eve of last year’s election was 56.5 percent, and earlier
this week, it was 54.7 percent — a difference of just 1.8
percent. Second, nationwide support for Obama’s handling of health-care
reform has also has shot up and is now about even with the opposition
to it, according to Public Policy Polling. And third, state Republicans
have a major problem — their candidates are weak.

Take Meg Whitman. During the GOP’s three-day state convention last
weekend, the former eBay CEO was unable to shake off questions about
her dismal voting record, according to the San Francisco
Chronicle
. And Fiorina, the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO, has the same
problem of not voting during much of her adult life. As for Poizner,
the charisma-challenged insurance commissioner, he hardly strikes fear
in the hearts of Democrats. And while the third GOP gubernatorial
hopeful, Tom Campbell, is a moderate who might have a shot in the
general election, he’s probably not conservative enough for the
right-wing base, and will have trouble making it out of the
primary.

Governor Guts State Parks

Arnold Schwarzenegger decided last week that it made more political
sense to gut state parks than close them, realizing that shuttering
more than 100 parks threatened to destroy his legacy as a green
governor. Schwarzenegger slashed $14.2 million from the state parks
budget by closing some campgrounds and facilities on weekdays,
eliminating unfilled positions, and cutting maintenance, including
bathroom cleaning, according to the Chronicle. In other words,
the parks are about to get whole lot dirtier after years of budget cuts
left them with $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance costs. Plus, the
new cuts mean there may not be enough people to actually operate the
parks. “He’s functionally closing parks but trying not to face the heat
of closing parks,” state Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San
Rafael told the Chron.

Air Board Approves Carbon Tax

The California Air Resources Board took the historic step of levying
new state fees on companies that produce large amounts of greenhouse
gases. The carbon tax will raise about $63 million next year for
monitoring and regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the
Chron. The fees likely will be passed onto consumers. As a
result, the tax means that California will put a cost on the
potentially devastating effects of burning natural gas and coal, while
encouraging consumers to use less energy.

The board’s decision followed a new UN report that said climate
change is occuring much faster than previously thought. The report
predicts global temperatures will jump by at least 6.3 degrees
Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the Washington
Post
. The prediction, which would mean a six-foot rise in sea
levels by 2100, is a best-case scenario.

Perata and Pot

Ex-State Senator Don Perata, who is running for mayor of Oakland,
surprisingly endorsed a pot legalization measure that supporters hope
to put on next year’s statewide ballot. The Tax Cannabis 2010
initiative is sponsored by the founder of Oaksterdam University, a
marijuana education facility in Oakland’s Uptown district, and would
let adults possess up to one ounce of pot while allowing the state to
finally begin taxing cannabis proceeds. And though Perata failed to
show up for the initiative’s kickoff event last Friday, his endorsement
was a shrewd political move because the legalization measure likely
will be popular with progressive Oakland voters.

Three-Dot Roundup

The Berkeley City Council unanimously rejected an appeal filed by
neighbors of the wildly popular Sunday Brunch at the Thai Temple. The
decision clears the way for visitors to enjoy Pad Thai and mango sticky
rice in the company of at least 200 of their fellow diners every
Sunday. … About 6,000 protesters descended on UC Berkeley’s Sproul
Plaza last week to demonstrate against the regents’ plan to raise
student fees by 32 percent over the next year. … California Community
Colleges, already staggered by a massive budget deficit, will receive
$90 million less than expected from Obama’s stimulus package because of
a quirk in how the funds are allocated. … The Alameda Chamber of
Commerce decided to officially oppose a ballot initiative that would
pave the way for a massive housing development on the former Naval Air
Station. …. Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente told the
Chronicle that he will vote to roll back parking meter hours. De
La Fuente was absent from last week’s council meeting when his
colleagues fell one vote shy in their attempt to change meter hours
back to 6 p.m. … A federal appeals court may overturn Alameda
County’s gun ban on public property.

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